800 AD Anglo Saxon Tunic

800 AD Anglo Saxon Tunic


Anglo Saxon tunic

Under tunic of blue linen with long tight fitting sleeves.

Upper tunic of light blue silk/ linen blend with large open sleeves to elbow.

Hair braided and wrapped around the head.

Head covering of white skull cap and white veil edged with blue embroidery.

Shoes of the turn-shoe style Fastened by lacings. Leg Bandages worn in winter.

Accessories consisting of a belt with metal strap ends, chatelaine chains with thread box, keys, shears, and a hanging pouch.

Jewelry consisting of a ring and bead necklace and pear-shaped earrings of crystal, amethyst, pearl, or garnets.


Women's clothing underwent a radical change between the sixth and seventh century at the time of the major conversion from the old Germanic religion to Christianity. The standard went from the traditional, tubular style of dress, to the now more familiar tunic styles. The evidence for this new style of clothing is very limited, but seems to be a modified version of Byzantine dress. This may have been brought to Gaul by Charlemagne, and on to Britain by the Christianizing monks, but may have also owed something to the religious works of art of Mediterranean origin which were coming the Britain under the influence of Christianity. (Owen-Crocker, 97)

The under tunic seems to have had tight fitting wrist length sleeves that were long enough to cover the hands but usually were gathered between the wrist and elbow. This undergarment, was usually undyed, unbleached linen cut less baggy than the over dresses. This dress would also be decorated with a broad decorative band of contrasting color textile, braid or embroidery at the wrist.

Gowns were generally of ankle length with fairly large sleeves that reached either to just above the elbow, or to the mid-forearm. The second gown was usually slightly shorter so the under tunic was visible at hem and cuff. Another gown called a Roc, was often worn over the lower garments and was frequently made of wool. The Roc was usually worn so that the girdle hitched it up, with the hem coming to knee level. These tunics usually had a round neck opening. Broad borders of applied cloth, often of contrasting color became the most common forms of decoration. This cloth could be tablet woven bands, or covered with embroidery or braid. They were at the cuffs and hem of these dresses. In some cases there was another broad band running from the neck to the hem at center front. These tunics were cut very wide.

With the major Christian conversion came the moral belief that women should cover their heads. It seems that most women wore a close fitting cap, which sometimes left the hair at the forehead and temples visible. A veil or sometimes layers of veils, would usually cover the cap and be attached to the cap by hairpins. This practice extended to indoor wear as well as outdoor wear. Veil length varied all the way to ankle length. All colors are represented including white. Sometimes the veils were plain, but often they were embroidered.

Leg coverings and footwear are hard to document. Those illustrations that do include leg and footwear, show leg bandages similar to those worn by men and slipper or ankle shoes made of the turn-shoe method, by which the sole and upper were joined together inside out, and then turned right side out. The shoe was usually fastened by a drawstring or lacing.

Accessories are not as important in the Anglo-Saxon ensemble. Belts and girdles depended on regional variations. Belts without buckles were frequently seen but they had metal strap ends. (Owen-Crocker, 70). Tools and trinkets hanging from the belt became less common. The belt holders and rings gave way to chatelaine chains.

Jewelry for this ensemble would have consisted of a ring and bead necklace characteristic of the time. (Owen-Crocker, 95) Beads were hung across rings on string. This probably imitated the pendant bullae worn by women of higher rank. Earrings were popular and were usually pear-shaped with dangling stones of either crystal, amethyst, pearl, or garnets. There doesn’t seem to be much use of finger rings. Women seem to have used very little makeup. Occasionally they were known to paint their cheeks.

Typical fabric colors worn at this time were yellow, indigo, red-orange, green, blue, red, and purple. The typical materials for clothing were linen, wool, and silk. Embroidery and decorative motifs included diagonal and angular line, circles, squares, conventional animal motifs as well as scenes or figures from the gospels.

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The tunic layout consists of a single layer of 60" by 4' long piece of cloth. The front and back panels of a tunic work fairly well if they are as wide as the measurement between the points of the shoulders, plus seam allowances on both sides. There needs to be at least 4" of ease in the chest area. If 1/2 of the chest measurement is a significantly larger number than the shoulder measurement, go with the chest measurement and decrease the material in the shoulders gradually. Gores can be as wide or as narrow as you like, but if they are too wide they will hang in deep folds rather than draping gracefully. Sleeves should be generally 16" wide at the shoulder and may taper at the wrist for the chemise or have lengths added for flared styles. There needs to be at least 4-8" of ease in the length to allow for the belt.



cutting diagram
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General Sewing Tips:

  1. It is very important to pre-shrink all fabric. Treat the fabric as you would after the garment is complete.
  2. All seams are to have 1/2" seam allowances.
  3. Zigzag all edges to prevent raveling.
  4. Backstitch 1/4" at the beginning and end of each seam to keep seam from coming out.
  5. Pin pieces of fabric being sewn together before sewing to keep fabric from slipping and edges together while sewing.
  6. Always put "right" sides of fabric together when sewing.
  7. Mark "wrong" sides of material if necessary with a chalk pencil or soap as pieces are cut out.
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Step 1

Cut out all pieces and label for ease of identification.

Step 2

neck facing

Finish the neck edge by sewing in a facing tape of twill tape. Sew the tape to the raw edge of the neck and then fold under and stitch down with a small running stitch. Or sew in a neck facing.

Step 3

Mark a line with chalk up the center of the front and back body the distance from navel to hem of costume.

Step 4

Pinning in front gusset

Cut along the marked line and insert the front and back gores. Using a marking instrument, mark a dot at the stitch pivot point on the gore and at the tip of the tunic cut. Stay stitch the tunic just inside the seam line to stabilize it. Pin the gore to the tunic, matching the pivot markings. With the tunic on top, stitch 2-3" of the gore to the tunic, hand stitching just outside of the stay stitching and pivoting at the point. Finish sewing the gore in by machine if desired.

inserting front gusset

Step 5

sleeve and gussets

Sew the gussets to the upper sleeve edges.

Step 6

Attach the side gores to the edge of the gussets.Be sure that the bias edge of the side gores is at the top.

Step 7

side gusset to body construction

Sew the entire gore, gusset, and sleeve assembly to the side of the main body piece being careful to center the sleeve at the shoulder point.

Step 8

The dress should look like this if laid flat. This is a good time to iron out the seams if you haven't already done so.

Step 9

Add any decoration such as embroidery, trim, etc.

Step 10

seam finish

Sew up the side seams. Seams should all be finished. Fold under the raw edges to the outside and hand stitch a running stitch down either side of the seam. Use a contrasting color so that the stitches show decoratively on the outside of the dress.

Step 11

Hang the garment for at least a week. Two weeks would be better and let the dress stretch. Then mark the length and hem.

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  1. To get the preferred radius of a veil, let a measuring tape dangle from your forehead, over the back of your head to where you want the veil to go on your back. Cut an oval this length and finish with a turned hem.
  2. Follow these steps to make a fine hem to the veil. It involves two passes around the fabric, the first to turn the fabric, and the second to anchor the roll.
    • Choose the finest thread you can find. Also use a small needle.
    • Fold over a tiny amount (less than 1/8" of fabric) just once.
    • Put a knot in the end of the thread and take a stitch or two through the folded layer.
    • Take one tiny stitch (through 1 thread of the fabric) beneath the raw edge, and then take a stitch about 1/8" to the right on the top of the fabric near the fold.
    • Repeat by going back to the bottom under the raw edge about another 1/8" in distance. Basically you are doing a tiny zigzag just under the raw edge and the top near the fold.
    • Complete between 6 and 8 of these stitches and then pull the fabric. The fabric will roll, with a varying degree of closing together.
    • Go around the veil edge again using a tiny hem stitch to hold down any gaps from the previous steps.


You will need a veil, two strips of fabric about 1" wide and 30" long, and 7 pins.

Step 1

Wrap the chin-strap, sometimes called a "barbette" under the chin and around the head, covering the ears. It is pinned at the top of the head, slightly back from the place you'd balance a book on your head. The band should be snug, but not uncomfortably tight.

Step 2

Wrap the second band across the forehead, just below your hairline, around the head, and wraps back to be pinned at the back of the head.

Step 3

Pin together the two bands where they cross on each side of the head.

Step 4

Center the veil on your head, with the front edge just over the lover edge of the forehead banc. Pin in the center of the forehead band. At the sides, pin the veil to the intersection of the two bands.

Step 5

Wear a circlet or coronet over this according to your rank and desire.

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